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The [Monday] Papers

I've basically been sleeping since Thursday. I don't know why.

I had mono when I was a college sophomore, so it's not that. (Or is it?)

I actually recall having mono with fondness. It's a fun, little story.

It was the fall of 1984 at the University of Minnesota. I lived in a dorm called Sanford Hall. Mono went around our floor. I suspected I got it from a particular co-ed. I just used the word "co-ed" to describe a female college student because I've never done that before, and it baffles me that anyone would use that word in that way. It's so Fifties.

Anyway, it later turned out that I actually, almost assuredly, instead contracted mono from the roommate of a high school friend I visited who was attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Me and my college friends would road trip to Madison twice a year - in the fall for a Minnesota football game there or the annual Halloween party, and in the spring for the Mifflin Street Block Party.

God, we loved Madison.

Best college town ever, in my humble opinion. The platonic ideal of a college town, one might say. One in college.

On our drives back home to Minneapolis, we'd spend the four hours in the car saying "We've got to transfer! We've got to transfer!" over and over.

None of us ever transferred.

But to this day, I love Madison. Those were some of the best weekends of my life.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure I drank from the same glass as my friend's roommate, whom I learned later had mono. (Maybe that was a Halloween trip, because I remember me and my old high school friend dressed as hockey players and his unknowingly mono-stricken friend dressed as imaginary sports agent Gus Badali. Oh, wait - Gus Badali wasn't our creation at all!

All these years, I thought he was - because that's what the name of our agent would sound like. Thanks for ruining the fantasy, Google. Although maybe it's funnier this way. The obscurity of the reference is priceless, and we were only out to amuse ourselves, not anyone else.

I have an old-fashioned photo of the three of us, which I will attempt to scan and upload here later. Old-fashioned meaning taken with a camera that wasn't also a phone. If it was taken with a camera that is also a phone, you'd be looking at the photo right now. The good ol' days were rarely better than the present. Camera phones rule.

Anyway, I was disappointed to figure out later that that was the way I got mono, because it's so less interesting than getting it from a pretty girl, let's face it. And what's weird about it is that one of my close dorm friends also got mono, and because it was going around our dorm, or our floor, which just assumed we all got it from each other. I felt terribly guilty that I might have given it to my friend, somehow, but then, we both thought we got it from the same girl - who turned out not have ever had it in the first place.

It was all very confusing.

But here's the thing: Those four to six weeks or so when I had mono were the best four to six weeks of my life. The best.

See, when I was diagnosed, finals were only a few weeks away and the doctor wanted to make sure I got through the end of the quarter (quarter system rules, btw) and finals. So he prescribed me some medication that I have always assumed was some kind of speed. Because I was super-productive - and lived my life during those few weeks the way I imagined life should be lived, and how other people lived. I no longer needed so much sleep. I became focused. I had energy that I've otherwise never had in life - I've always had an energy deficiency, which is part and parcel of a lifelong battle with depression. I was "on" during that time - and not in a manic, special episode of Family Ties way. I didn't feel like shit when I woke up. I knocked out full days and full nights, from classes to studying to partying and engaging in the usual hijinks with my crew. I was "normal."

I've never been that since.

The only downside was that the doctor held me out of the rest of the floor hockey season, including the playoffs. That hurt. Big-time. I loved floor hockey.

My group of college friends - before I got to the Minnesota Daily and fell in with the weirdos there - played all manner of intramural sports. Our circle had acquired a nickname, the Knuckleheads, and so each of our teams was so-named: Knuckleheads on Ice, Knuckleheads on Field, Knuckleheads on Floor . . .

Years later, I put together a floor hockey team here in Chicago with my then-girlfriend. I kept that team together for eight years - three "seasons" a year (fall, winter, spring). We made it to the finals six times, winning three. It wasn't about the winning with us, of course. When we started our team was terrible. But it got better. And it was a blast. And, yes, we were the alt team in a typically jock Chicago social sports league. And, yes, I did score the winning goal in one of our championship games with about 12 seconds left in regulation time. That's what life's about, people! It was an amazing moment for me, for all kinds of reasons I won't go into here; I still can see in my mind the entire play. With our first championship, our team, Moe's Tavern, earned a pennant on the wall of the Beachwood Inn. We all signed the back. That pennant was later stolen - and later returned - but that's another (miraculous) story.

Anyway, once I was diagnosed with mono that sophomore year, I was held out of floor hockey. Apparently when one has mono, the internal organs can become tender and vulnerable, and many forms of physical activity are prohibited. That was really the only price I paid for having mono - a big price, for sure, but worth experiencing life as I've always imagined it.

Actually, there was a second downside. When my prescription ran out, that was that. I was not allowed to refill it. I rode out the tail end of the mono with relatively minor sluggishness, and that was that.

(About 10 years ago, I had the chance to test out samples of what is basically trucker speed - Nuvigil - to try to boost my energy, and the results were fairly decent, but not like whatever it is I was taking when I had mono. If only I could remember what that magic elixir was . . . )

I'm almost certain I don't have mono again, but I really have been sleeping since Thursday. I felt really shitty on Wednesday before going into a coma-like existence. I'm going to attribute it, for now, to a combination of stress, caffeine, booze, bad sleep, difficult personal issues, the suicide of a friend, and depression that piled up and finally broke me once the mayoral campaign - at least its first round - came to a close last Tuesday night.

I'd think about going to the doctor, but last Wednesday I got a letter from the state informing me that they were taking my Medicaid away two days later, last Friday. Thanks for the warning!

Didn't I just go through this last July? Yes. Yes I did. I got my Medicaid restored then because it never should have been taken away. But that's what's been happening in Illinois, and elsewhere, for years, and to people in far worse shape than me.

The funny thing is, my income - which was cited as suddenly being too high to be eligible for Medicaid - has not only not changed since I first qualified for Medicaid under the Obamacare expansion, but it has gone down. Nevertheless, they persist.

So I'm currently without health insurance. I am fighting to get my Medicaid reinstated. We'll see how that goes. I can't afford the health insurance on the "Marketplace" and I can't afford to pay for my monthly antidepressant prescription out of pocket. So many others have it far, far worse than I do, though. This is a sick country, no pun intended. Every politician who stands against some form of true universal health care, be it Medicare for All or something else, has actual death on their hands. They are murderers. Let's be clear. (And in Illinois, who knows how many people's lives were cut short because they lost social services during Bruce Rauner's campaign to break unions? Seriously, lives were lost.)

Oh hey, I'm getting some strength back! Sometimes anger has its positive purposes.

Anyway, I actually got up early this morning and thought the whole sleeping thing was behind me, and I went to a coffee shop to crank up the ol' laptop and get back in the game. I wasn't there for very long when I decided I had to go back home and get back in bed.

Now it's 3 p.m. as I write this and I'm back up and around. I was just going to write a brief placeholder for the column and try again tomorrow, but look! I've written a column about why I won't have a column today! Not for the first time.

P.S.: Don't tell mom. I'll be on the phone all night assuring her I don't have mono, I don't have the Epstein-Barr virus, I don't have (probably) a brain tumor, I don't have Ebola, and that I will get my Medicaid back somehow. Don't. Tell. Mom.


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Posted on March 4, 2019

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